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Apps Politics Social Media Twitter Uncategorized

Twitter sued by the man behind NY Post’s infamous Hunter Biden story

A couple weeks before the US presidential election, the New York Post—a right wing tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch—published a story about Hunter Biden, the son of then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The thrust of the article was that Hunter essentially bribed foreign officials with access to his father when the latter was Barack Obama’s vice president.

How the story developed was odd to say the least: someone went to a computer repair shop—sort of like a health analytics company for computers—and dropped off a water-damaged laptop that allegedly belonged to Hunter. The owner of the shop proceeded to look at the contents of the laptop’s hard drive, discovering a mass of incriminating files. Then, as any rational, well-meaning individual would do, he decided it was a good idea to share them with Rudy Guliani’s lawyer. Then he turned the hard drive over to the FBI.

Guliani and his army of Trump-worshipping orcs shopped the hard drive story around to various media outlets. The Post, presumably, was the only one to accept it. The article was published, and the Trump campaign thought it had its October surprise. But within a few hours the article had been censored by Twitter, which later justified the clearly-political move by citing its “hacked materials” policy. It even disabled the NY Post’s Twitter account.

A couple days later Twitter restored the account as well as the censored links, but of course the damage was done; the controversy surrounding the story had become far bigger than the story itself. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to the hoopla by saying he didn’t want “Twitter to be a distributor for hacked materials,” but conceded that it had been a “mistake” to simply censor an article without providing any context.

Anyway, the owner of the computer repair shop, John Paul Mac Isaac, is now suing Twitter for defamation. His lawyers claim that by slapping the “hacked materials” label on the Post’s story, Twitter implied that he is a hacker. Isaac is seeking $500 million in punitive damages, an unspecified amount in compensatory damages, and a “public retraction of all false statements.”

“Plaintiff is not a hacker and the information obtained from the computer does not [constitute] hacked materials because Plaintiff lawfully gained access to the computer,” the lawsuit says, adding that Isaac “is now widely considered a hacker” and was forced to close his repair business due to threats and negative customer reviews.

This reminds me of that time when the previously-bald-headed Elon Musk was sued for defamation after referring to a cave diver as a “pedo guy” on Twitter. He won the case by claiming his tweet was satirical. Poor judgment on the part of that judge.

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Apps Companies Google Politics Social Media Society Uncategorized YouTube

YouTube profits from animal torture: report

A new investigation by animal welfare group Lady Freethinker determined that YouTube knowingly profits from depictions of extreme animal abuse. The investigation found about 2,000 videos “glorifying animal cruelty”; combined, they have more than 1 billion views. Using publicly available data, the group estimated that the abusive videos may have resulted in as much as $12 million in ad revenue for YouTube, plus as much as $15 million in revenue for the creeps who uploaded them.

The animal abuse freely available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube—owned by Google—includes but is not limited to: animal fighting (dogs, roosters, snakes, etc.), abusive captivity, eating animals alive, staged “rescue” videos, and hunting animals with other animals.

There are reportedly at least 146 YouTube channels devoted to celebrating animal abuse, with more than 30 million subscribers. Disturbing to say the least, especially when you consider that most of them would have no trouble passing a crime check like police clearance WA.

“This content is both incredibly cruel and dangerous for people,” Lady Freethinker wrote on its website. “Many of the animals exploited in these videos are potential hosts for zoonotic diseases — like rabies, tuberculosis, Ebola, measles, and more — that can spread to humans.

“LFT is calling on YouTube to show that it doesn’t prioritize profits over the humane treatment of animals. Sign our petition urging the company to take down these videos and adopt a strong policy to detect and remove all content promoting animal cruelty in the future.”

Reached for comment by the Guardian newspaper, YouTube had this to say for itself: “YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit any violent or gory content intended to shock or disgust viewers, including the unnecessary infliction of harm on animals. We routinely remove videos and comments flagged by our community that violate those policies, and in many cases we terminate the accounts of users who violate our guidelines.”

But Lady Freethinker reports that, between April and July of this year, YouTube only removed 185 of the approximately 2,000 videos flagged by the charity.

As for those “community guidelines” that clearly aren’t enforced, they supposedly prohibit dogfighting, cockfighting, videos showing “unnecessary suffering,” bullfighting, and hunting “using illegal practices.” All of which can be found on YouTube right now.

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Companies Social Media TikTok Uncategorized

Reddit buys out TikTok rival Dubsmash

Reddit announced recently that it had bought out a video sharing company called Dubsmash, further expanding the message board’s digital footprint. Dubsmash, a competitor of obnoxious prepubescent app TikTok, is going to hold onto its platform and brand while Reddit helps “bring our teams together to combine the unique creator experience of Dubsmash with the community growth engine of Reddit.” Reddit has not disclosed the financial terms of the takeover.

Dubsmash (a pretty stupid-sounding name, wouldn’t you say so?) functions much like TikTok does, giving users the ability to create and share short videos that are supposed to be really funny and clever but are actually just puerile and annoying. CNN, which doesn’t appear to have many articles about child care in Hornsby, reports that Dubsmash is known for its “diverse audiences”: one quarter of black teens in the US are on the app, and 70 percent of users are women. By “women” I assume CNN means “girls.” At least I hope that’s the case. If 70 percent of Dubsmash users are grown women, Western culture is in serious trouble.

A Reddit blog post says that about 30 percent of Dubsmash users log in each day to create content, which doesn’t seem overly-impressive. It also says that “Dubsmash’s mission is to elevate under-represented creators.” I’m not really sure what constitutes an “under-represented creator,” but there you have it.

“Dubsmash will bring two key strengths to Reddit,” Reddit explains. “First, Dubsmash’s mission is unique among social platforms, and is aligned with Reddit’s own mission of bringing community and belonging to everyone in the world. Just as Reddit is a place for content you won’t see anywhere else on the Internet, Dubsmash provides a welcoming platform for creators and users who are under-represented in social media.”

Commenting on the takeover, Dubsmash leader Suchit Dash delivered the following bromides:

“In our years of building Dubsmash, we’ve learned how video can spark creativity, unlock interactions, and deepen connections within communities. We want to continue our journey to bring best in class video products to our users, and now Reddit users. We believe in the idea of connecting creators around interests and topics, something Reddit has pioneered, in our growing Dubsmash community.”

Prior to being taken over by Reddit, Dubsmash reportedly considered letting Facebook or Snap do the honors.

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Facebook Policy Politics Privacy Social Media Uncategorized

Australia sues Facebook for spying on users sans consent

Facebook has been sued by a regulatory body in Australia for allegedly (but we all know it’s true) gathering personal data from users without their knowledge or consent. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says Zuckerberg’s corporation used the Onavo Protect VPN app to spy on Australian users in 2016 and 2017, collecting and storing their data in order to boost Facebook’s profits. Facebook did this, the filing asserts, while telling users that the app would protect their data and keep it safe.

That is what a VPN (virtual private network) is meant to do: keep your data secure and prevent you from being monitored by nefarious actors like Facebook. But you really can’t trust any digital technology these days, especially if it’s being promoted by Facebook. If you want privacy you’d better just stick to face-to-face conversations, or maybe 2 way radios.

“Through Onavo Protect, Facebook was collecting and using the very detailed and valuable personal activity data of thousands of Australian consumers for its own commercial purposes, which we believe is completely contrary to the promise of protection, secrecy and privacy that was central to Facebook’s promotion of this app,” said a statement from ACCC chair Rod Sims.

He added:

“Consumers often use VPN services because they care about their online privacy, and that is what this Facebook product claimed to offer. In fact, Onavo Protect channelled significant volumes of their personal activity data straight back to Facebook.

“We believe that the conduct deprived Australian consumers of the opportunity to make an informed choice about the collection and use of their personal activity data by Facebook and Onavo.”

The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, though it did not specify how much.

Whether Facebook did what the ACCC accuses it of doing isn’t really up for debate. In 2018 the British parliament published internal Facebook documents that detailed how the company used data from the Onavo app to gather valuable information about user activity—as well as valuable information about competitors. For example, the app allowed Facebook to identify WhatsApp as a competitive threat, at which point Facebook moved to take it over. Classic predatory monopolistic behavior, and a clear violation of US antitrust legislation.

Where’s Ted Roosevelt when you need him?